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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday 3rd January, 2003

ROBOT MAN

Robot
ROBOT WARS | Are they set to take over the world and if so is it a case of if you can't beat them, join them?

They may not be able to climb stairs and their exterminator looks more like a sink plunger, but Daleks and their fellow robots are taking over the world. That’s if you believe Professor Kevin Warwick who prepares to join them as the first half man, half robot.

Coventry born Professor Kevin Warwick has one ambition - to turn himself into a cyborg. He’s convinced that intelligent robots are on the brink of taking over the world, so if you can’t beat them, join them.

"I have one goal in my life. I want to be a cyborg ... I want to be the world’s first half man half machine." Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University.

World domination

Kevin Warwick
Kevin wants to be the first cyborg, half man, half human

This view may seem a little extreme, but are robots covertly phasing man-kind out of the equation? Inside Out investigates.

Life in the year 2000 - voice activated appliances, flying cars, home-help robots. This is how life in the future was viewed. The reality is a little different and it seems that robots are doing it for themselves, getting out of the kitchen and into the work place.

At the Longbridge Rover plant, this is certainly the case. 345 robots turn out 3,000 cars a week. It takes six robots 90 seconds to perform 500 welds - phew! How can humans compete with that? It seems they can’t.

Man versus machine

So are robots plans for world domination beginning with the stealing of our jobs? On the contrary believes one Rover representative, who assures Inside Out that were robots not used, manufacture would be lost to factories abroad.

Robots at the Rover plant
Roberts out-perform humans on the production line

"A robot is simply a tool," assures the Rover representative. "It’s only a robot because we call it a robot. It’s just like any other machine."

Inside Out finds a robot that is a little more sophisticated than ‘just any other machine’. One designer has created a robot security guard, complete with infra-red night vision and it won’t require a tea break.

The robot may be superior to a human security guard in its abilities, but although it can see, it has no understanding, it doesn’t even recognise its creator. Robots, it seems, pose little treat without intelligence.

World's first cyborg

But that’s not enough to convince Kevin, who has already taken the first step in his cyborg creation. Kevin has installed a microchip in his body. Using it, he’s devised a way of making electrical impulses from his brain operate a robot arm.

He can also transmit those impulses across the world, using the internet, so they can operate mechanical limbs in New York.

Kevin and his mechanical hand
Kevin can control machinery by thought alone

Kevin is also busy devising a way of transmitting thoughts to his wife, without having to speak. Robot expert Martin Smith is sceptical.

"I think that’s an inhuman idea. We’ve evolved to communicate in human ways," says Martin. "I don’t think any family could survive having their most intimate thoughts shared all the time with other people."

Robots revolt

But it’s just this inhumanity that Kevin is striving for. Yet however inhuman Kevin’s actions may appear, he still displays the very basic of all human emotions - fear.

"Certainly I’m frightened about having a brain implant. But what frightens me even more, is that somebody else might do it before me… I want to be there at the cutting edge."

So next time your toaster plays up, or your microwave pings involuntary, it may be the start of the robot revolution, head for the safety of the stairs, or failing that, just switch them off!

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
Science - Robots

On the rest of the web
Real Robots
Robots
The Guardian: I want to be a cyborg

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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